The Japanese showed little interest in gunpowder artillery until the arrival of the Portuguese, after which some bought European gun barrels, often simply the ordnance on visiting ships. Many of these may have simply been swivel guns, mainly useful as anti-personnel weapons for defence, so it is far from certain when what we would recognise as cannons were first used on Japanese soil. One of the early certain references to true cannon was at the siege of Osaka castle in 1614 and again the following year, when five English pieces and several Dutch ones (amongst others) were bought and used by the besiegers (and others used to a lesser degree by the besieged). Naturally the supply of European barrels was very limited, so Japan tried to copy them, but never seem to have mastered the necessary skills, so European barrels remained much prized even when domestic examples were available. Strict controls were placed on the manufacture of cannon barrels, and production was limited to Nagahama, but in the end perhaps the major factors in the lack of development of artillery in Japan were the self-imposed isolationist policies from the 1630s, and the long peace of the Edo Period.
The gun in this set is of course not a swivel gun, but something akin to a true cannon as most would recognise it, mounted on a wheeled carriage. To what extent such a device ever existed is very hard to establish, since almost all references to true cannon during these centuries relate to sieges, where mobility was not important. In an age when wheeled transport was rare most barrels were transported by animal and mounted on site, but the concept was certainly known to the Japanese; there exists a very odd illustration of what is in effect a giant arquebus mounted on a wheeled carriage, which may or may not have actually existed but shows the idea was known. If so then the very simple carriage modelled here seems quite reasonable, since it is effectively just a stout piece of wood resting on an axle to which a barrel is solidly attached. The barrel has no trunnions or other means of elevation, which would therefore require the angle of the carriage to be changed instead. With so little evidence to suggest field artillery such as this, and no illustrations or descriptions that we could find, this weapon must be quite speculative. Yet its simplicity means it cannot be ruled out, even if it was only used as a weapon of the siege, so the customer will have to decide for themselves on the suitability of this device.
The four crew figures are much easier to accept, however. Three are the ordinary ashigaru that would have served such guns, and all wear typical clothing and armour for the period. One man seems to be moving the gun, another carries a bag (of powder?) on his shoulder and a third is covering his ears against the expected bang. By themselves these are not a great selection of artillerymen, but perhaps the intention of the manufacturer was to mix and match the figures in this set with those in Set 1, which contains the more useful poses. Combined they certainly make a pretty useful collection of poses, and by themselves there is nothing wrong with those in this set. This set does have the distinction of offering a samurai officer in charge of the weapon, apparently pointing dramatically at the foe. His costume and armour look good for someone of his rank, and like the rest he could equally be used with either weapon in the two sets.
The sculpting is very nice indeed, with plenty of detail covering these complex figures, just as it should. The poses are natural and the proportions good too. On our example there was not a trace of flash on any man, though there was some flash on the cannon and its carriage. The barrel and main part of the carriage of this weapon are done as a single piece; only the wheels are separate and need to be attached. We found this well done and easy to put together, though flash on the wheels is tricky to remove. The barrel is 15 mm (108cm) in length, and the carriage has an overall length of 25 mm (180cm).
Use of cannon of this sort of size was very limited in Japan, and mostly mounted on non-mobile wooden carriages like medieval European bombards. Though the weapon seems plausible it is hard to prove, and certainly had a tiny effect on Japanese warfare at the time. This lack of proof has meant we have avoided giving a score for accuracy, though the figures are certainly fine, but whether historically correct or not the gun is quite an appealing little model, and the four crew figures are certainly realistic and useful, so this is still a set we liked.